A Galway TD has accused the Government of “linguistic gymnastics” in answering questions about the health crisis at UHG and Merlin Park hospitals.
In the Dáil last week, Independent Deputy Catherine Connolly asked Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to take a hands-on approach in dealing with the serious issues in Galway’s public hospitals, and in particular, the closure of two theatres at Merlin Park for the past six months.
The Taoiseach acknowledged the “enormous disruption” which the theatres’ closure had caused (due to a leaking roof) and said a tender will be awarded in the coming weeks for the construction of two modular theatre buildings on the site.
During Leaders’ Questions, Deputy Connolly said: “In Galway the hospital is at crisis point. Lack of capacity is number one on the risk register. There was a leak in its sister hospital in Merlin Park on September 4, 2017. We were told repairs would take a few weeks. On September 12, there was a further leak and we were told engineers and architects had been appointed. We were told it would only be a matter of weeks.
“During that time, the hospital was told to look at alternative arrangements, including capacity, if any, in the hospital, which was already bursting at the seams, capacity in the private hospitals, or any other way it could source alternative care.
“It is now six months later and the two theatres remain closed. They have been repaired. However, a clinical review has told us they are no longer suitable. The design is not compatible with modern standards. Modular theatres are promised for next October, thirteen months after the water first poured into the two theatres in Galway.
“Just under 1,500 patients are waiting for knee and hip replacements and surgeries. We have been told one solution and it has not happened. We have been given various scenarios that have not happened.
“We have had linguistic gymnastics while people awaiting hip and knee surgeries have no idea about gymnastics. I am asking the Taoiseach to take a hands-on approach and to clarify when the two theatres that have been closed, scandalously, for more than six months will reopen,” said Deputy Connolly.
In his response, the Taoiseach acknowledged the “enormous disruption” that had been caused for some patients and to the health services in Galway as a result of the works carried out at Merlin Park.
“I am informed by the Minister for Health that the HSE is committed to ensuring that full elective orthopaedic capacity at Merlin Park University Hospital is restored.
“I have been informed that a full repair of the membrane of the roof was required to secure the integrity of the building. These works are now complete.
“Notwithstanding the repair, the theatres date from the 1950s and do not meet current clinical standards. An independent clinical assessment has been undertaken to assess the feasibility of returning these theatres to use.
“The hospital management has advised the best way to restore effective capacity at Merlin Park is through the provision of two modular theatres on the site. This has now gone to tender and the tender for these new modular units is at the final stages. It is expected the contract will be awarded in the coming weeks with works to take place thereafter,” he said.
Deputy Connolly said she did not know how to express her disappointment at the reply.
“The Taoiseach has been repeating the same type of response for the past number of months. We are looking at modular theatres which were supposed to be a temporary measure but they will not be in place thirteen months after the water poured in. How can the Taoiseach stand over the situation in Galway?
“We were led to believe in October at a meeting convened under pressure by the Minister for Health that it would be sorted out. Beds in the hospital in UHG were reopened.
“Why were beds closed on St. Finbar’s orthopaedic ward in a hospital that is bursting at the seams when beds can suddenly be opened to facilitate Merlin Park?
“We are also discovering that another solution is to open an old theatre in Merlin Park.
Every time we get an answer we get a different one. The answer the Taoiseach gave us was given months ago, and the repairs were completed months ago,” she said.
Mr Varadkar said his answer was the one he had to hand, and he was not charged with dealing with the issue day-to-day. That’s was a matter for management at the hospital and the Minister.
Galway rowers aim for Olympic gold!
Best of luck to two Galway rowers – Aifric Keogh of Aill an Phréacháin in Na Forbacha, and Fiona Murtagh from Gortachalla in Moycullen – who are part of Team Ireland’s Women’s Coxless Fours team who compete in an Olympic final in Tokyo at 1.50am (Irish time) Wednesday.
Coverage on RTÉ 2 television begins from 1am.
Ireland – who were second in their heat after Australia, who set a new Olympic Record – are in lane two, with Great Britain on their outside, and Australia, favourites for a gold medal, in lane three.
The Netherlands, China and Poland are in lanes four, five and six at the Sea Forest Waterway.
Poor weather meant some rowing events were re-scheduled but the Women’s Fours final was not impacted.
Jim Keogh, Aifric’s father, told the Tribune he was hopeful ahead of the final.
“To make the Olympics is tough, to make the final is tough, to make the medal is tougher,” he said.
Photo: Aifric Keogh, Eimear Lambe, Fiona Murtagh and Emily Hegarty.
*Full coverage of the race and reaction in this week’s Connacht Tribune and Galway City Tribune
Paedophile sentenced to a further 17 months in prison
A convicted paedophile, described by a Garda as ‘a prolific child abuser’, has had a 17-month prison sentence added to a 13-year sentence he is already serving for the rape and sexual abuse of children.
Disgraced primary school teacher and summer school bus driver, 69-year-old Seosamh Ó Ceallaigh, a native of Tuirín, Béal a’ Daingin, Conamara, had at all times denied two charges of indecently assaulting a ten-year-old boy at a Gaeltacht summer school in Béal a’ Daingin in 1979.
The offence carries a maximum two-year sentence.
A jury found him guilty by majority verdict following a four-day trial at Galway Circuit Criminal Court last month.
At his sentence hearing last week, Detective Paul Duffy described Ó Ceallaigh as a prolific child abuser who had amassed 125 child abuse convictions, committed while he was a primary school teacher in Dublin and while he operated an Irish language summer school in Beal a’ Daingin.
They included convictions for rape and sexual assault for which he is currently serving sentences totalling 13 years.
Those sentences were due to expire in August 2024, but last week, Judge Rory McCabe imposed two, concurrent 17-month sentences on Ó Ceallaigh, before directing the sentences begin at the termination of the sentences he is currently serving.
The judge noted Ó Ceallaigh’s denial and lack of remorse and the lifelong detrimental effect the abuse had on the victim as aggravating factors.
Dismay as marine park proposal rejected by planners
A lifeline project, with the potential to create around 200 long-term jobs in an area of South Connemara ravaged by unemployment and emigration, has been rejected by planners – primarily environmental grounds.
The proposed marine park or Páirc na Mara, east of Cill Chiaráin village, was viewed by many as a real chance to turn the tide for this unemployment blackspot.
Locals – and the vast majority of Galway West politicians – were supportive of the project which was viewed as one that would revitalise the area.
That said, Galway County Council’s decision to refuse permission for the marine park was welcomed by Galway Bay Against Salmon Cages which had expressed fears that the marine farm would extract huge amounts of fresh water to breed more than 1.5 million salmon smolts.
They said that millions of litres of fresh water would have been extracted on a regular basis by the salmon farm company operating the smolt rearing units – from the same lakes as the Carna and Cill Chiaráin water supply system.
“Local residents can now rest assured that their domestic water supply won’t be hijacked to line the pockets of people who have no regard for the local environment or residents,” said Billy Smyth, Chairman of Galway Bay Against Salmon Cages.
It was proposed to provide a marine innovation park Pairc na Mara on a 60-acre brownfield site at Cill Chiarain.
The development involves the provision of a number of marine-based facilities as well as education and research facilities in the townlands of Cill Chiarain, Ardmore and Calvary.
It involves the abstraction of water from Lough Scannan, its transfer to and temporary storage in Iron Lake along with impoundment and pumping to the Marine Park site with a rising main.
According to the application, Galway County Council has previously granted planning permission for aquaculture-based activities on the site of the proposed marine park back in 2002 while the first phase of the innovation park was built in 2005.
There were a considerable number of submissions supporting the application with many saying that this part of Connemara would benefit greatly from such a development.
But there were others who expressed concern over the potential impact it would have on the environment, and it would be located in a highly sensitive area.
Cllr Gerry King said that it was a valuable opportunity lost to the area given the amount of unemployment that exists. He added that there was local outrage at the decision.
The Fianna Fail councillor met with those behind the project and residents in support of the project. He said that they all agreed that this decision should be appealed to the higher planning authority.
It was refused on the basis that it would adversely affect the integrity and conservation objectives of the European sides in the vicinity of environmental value.
Planners stated that they could not be certain that the project would not adversely affect the integrity of Cill Ciaran Bay, the islands and Connemara bog complex
They also said that the Environmental Impact Assessment Report did not present a sufficient level of information on the impact it would have on human health, biodiversity, land, soil, water along with cultural heritage and the landscape.